In the August edition of my newsletter, I predicted that Sal DiCiccio would win by double digits. It looks like the final victory is going to be 9 points.
This race was extraordinary and I wanted to present a lesson for each point of Sal's victory. I was hoping to get at least 10 lessons from the race, but I'm very happy to be able to present these Nine Points.
By way of background for those of you who may not live in the District, DiCiccio has been an outspoken opponent of Phoenix's unsustainable pension system and the unions decided to make an example of him. I don't know what the final total will be, but I bet they spent nearly a million dollars. That total might be justified if they had made an example of DiCiccio, but they botched the campaign so badly that the didn't set the example they wanted to set. The Union's hapless consultants botched the campaign so badly with over-the-top name calling and outright deception that the backlash actually generated more votes for DiCiccio.
So here are nine points that you can take away from the race.
Point 0ne: Speaking of Dwarfs.....
The first--and biggest--mistake the Unions made was hiring David Leibowitz to run the campaign. Leibowitz, you may recall is a former Republic columnist who habitually referred to the Legislators as the "90 Dwarfes." Clever.
You would think that there would be a class in J School in which a professor explains that name calling and analysis are not the same thing. Reporters must think name calling is effective because Laurie Roberts for example still refers to Legislators she doesn't like as "kooks."
Frankly, a professional reporter who can't do any better than "dwarves" or "kooks" shouldn't be employed. So here's a hint. When they are no longer employed...don't hire them.
Is it surprising that a columnist who made his living as a name caller would become a consultant who was well...a name caller? While it's OK to waste the Republic's money with ineffective invective, it makes for a lousy consulting practice.
Point Two: Beware of backdraft or: "My Opponent Could Be a Puppy Eater"
The problem with over-the-top name calling is that you have to preface it with weasel words. Here's a great example that combines outrageous allegations with words like "may" "could" and "you never know". This piece generated rebukes from the Republic that were more widely seen than the original mailer.
Point Three: Understand Diminishing Marginal Utility
No, this isn't a slam on APS or SRP. Diminishing Marginal Utility is when each additional input is less effective than the last. Eventually, the inputs have negative utility. That's why eating that first cookie is wonderful and the 15th isn't so good...and 20th is actually painful. The same principle applies to hit pieces. If you send a "Could be a puppy eater" piece every day for a week, no one is going to pay attention. Send one every day for a month and people will vote for your victim just to punish you.
Point Four: You can only lie so much.
Leibowitz and his fellow travelers augmented their dishonest mailers with dishonest signs. They designed this grouping so that it appeared represent three Parks signs and three DiCiccio signs. The Parks group includes a name ID sign plus a "Firefighters Support Parks" and a "Paramedics Support Parks". The other side of the grouping contains the only real DiCiccio sign in the group, followed by Union signs that are designed to look like DiCiccio signs. The fake signs say "Lobbyists Support DiCiccio" and "Devvelopers Support DiCiccio." The two fake DiCiccio signs use DiCiccio's color scheme and font to enhance the illusion that the group on the left includes Parks and her supporters and the group on the right is DiCiccio and his supporters. The entier scheme is designed to fool voters, not inform them.
Point Five: The rules apply to you too.
The sign grouping pictured above is dishonest and ineffective, but at least it's not legal. The rule is one sign per corner and this union grouping--which appeared all over the district--contains four union signs built around on DiCiccio and one Park sign obviously violates that rule.
Point Six: Don't sacrifice your friends to appease your enemies.
This race should serve as an example to legislators who are waffling on Paycheck Protection and the elimination of "Release Time." You may think that you are being a force for reconcilliation and harmony, but in reality, you are facilitating the funding that makes these campaigns possible. And as John McComish learned last year...playing nice doesn't exempt you from attack.
Point Seven: The Hell of Gates
While DiCiccio is undoubtedly the person who benefits most by his win, the second biggest beneficiary is likely to be fellow Councilman Bill Gates. Gates--together with Waring and DiCiccio--completes the Troika that makes up the union opposition on the Council. If the Unions had managed to take out DiCiccio, then they would have focused on Gates in two years. Now, since Gates has a famous name and is less of a firebrand, the Unions have to calculate that if they couldn't take out DiCiccio, they have no chance with Gates. So he's likely to get the same free ride that Waring got on this round.
People have asked me what I would have done differently. After all, maybe it was impossible to beat DiCiccio and the Unions just wanted to send a message. Nope. The unions botched the race so badly, that DiCiccio won by the same margin--perhaps a bit more--that he would have earned if the Unions hadn't participated at all. Remember that the Congresswoman for this District is Kyrsten Sinema. Obviously, I'm a Sal supporter and would never have advised the opposition and it's not like they ever asked, but if I had participated, my strategy would have differed from the unions in point eight and nine.
Point Eight: Define your Candidate
By all accounts, the Unions actually had a viable candidate in Parks. When you have an attractive candidate and a lot of money, go positive. I would have spent some real money pointing out how wonderful my candidate is.
Point Nine: Turnout your voters
Remember council races have very low turnout. There's a huge pool of voters who vote in Primary and General elections, but not in City Elections. The Unions had sufficient money that they could have defined their candidate as apple pie and then ran a stealth but extensive get out the vote campaign targeting early voters who vote in Democratic Primaries, but not city elections. Those voters would have gone very heavily for Parks and the Unions only needed to pick up about 4,000 votes. That's a pretty small number in a district that's nearly as large as a congressional district
So if they had run an honest campgain, they would would have avoided the backlash, defined their candidate and made sure their voters actually voted. Maybe the results would have been different. At a minimum, if they had run a fair campaign, the unions would not be serving as a clinic for what not to do. As it is, there is now going to be an entire generation of political consultants who are tempted to break all the rules and scorch the earth yet stop and say....Don't forget how badly the unions got crushed when they tried to take out DiCiccio in 2013.